Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Other People's Failures

Have you ever wondered why it's interesting to hear of other people's failures? Inside, we all know we should be ashamed of "rubbernecking" at the calamities that befall others. Nevertheless, we hold a morbid fascination for them. It's part of what makes us so wonderfully human.

As I see it, there are two main reasons we gravitate toward stories of failure.

The first, is that when other people fail, it removes a tension on ourselves to measure up. By their failures, they have lowered their standard. This is especially the case in a working or other competitive environment. The star performer at work gathers a lot of envious eyes. The greater the gap between him and his colleagues, the more they desire to see him fail.

The second—and more admirable—is because other people's failures show us what not to do. It is always better to learn from other people's failures rather than from one's own. In the case of the star performer, it is likely that a person hearing his story would recognize that he has a blind spot. This makes him more human, and more sympathetic. It also makes the person hearing the story more of a team player.

The first mode of thinking is influenced greatly by the trend, mentioned in my previous post, of re-feeding the masses what they want to hear. When media does this, it has the effect of dampening the success of an organization. The people who are inundated with their own narrow thoughts, naturally rebel against anything that falls outside of the perspective it affords. Star performers are all but pulled down by mediocre individuals who are cynical about anything "unheard of."

The second mode of thinking requires an ambitious spirit, and belongs to the abundance mentality. When a person believes that opportunities to create value abound, they applaud star performers for their efforts. When others fail, one who believes in abundance absorbs the lessons, then gives a hand up to the fallen comrade.

We're all in this life together. Most failures are the result of the actor stepping outside his rightful territory, and treading upon others'. Why do we allow media and other influences to crush us into a win-lose competitive mentality, when we can work as a team to create win-win?

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